This was Bo Over the Top, 2012 edition, only the former Auburn running back wasn’t leaping over a pile of Auburn and Alabama players like he did to win the 1982 Iron Bowl.
Saturday’s conclusion to Bo Bikes Bama — Jackson’s state-crossing cycling adventure to mark the first anniversary of a day when a catastrophic tornado outbreak devastated Alabama — was Bo going over the fray of a frayed rivalry between fans of the University of Alabama and intrastate rival Auburn University.
It was a former Heisman Trophy winner reminding all of the higher place so many occupied a year ago, in the face of disaster, and God bless Bo for doing it.
Any reminder that snaps the most perspective-challenged of Alabama and Auburn fans back to their best angels is a good thing. Maybe it will keep things from ever returning to the sad state that existed before the tornadoes of April 27, 2011 truly saddened our state.
Not that anyone is preaching, let alone this Kentucky native.
I was coming of draft age when leading politicians in Kentucky forced the University of Kentucky to play rival Louisville in an annual basketball series. I remember the nasty atmosphere.
I, along with lots of Kentuckians, was shaking my head over news of Kentucky and Louisville fans fighting in a dialysis clinic during the week leading up to the Kentucky-Louisville showdown in this year’s Final Four.
I had also just sat in Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina. I watched Carolina-blue-clad fans pick up brown-and-white signs and help cheer underdog Lehigh to an NCAA Tournament upset of hated rival Duke.
Alabama and Auburn fans have no corner on the pettiness market, though some take it to absurd proportions and earn the state unwanted publicity.
Things hit a low point in the 2010 football season and months leading up to the April 27 tornadoes. There was the prankster who taped a Cam Newton jersey to the Bear Bryant statue outside of Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. There was the sad soul who poisoned the oak trees at Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner.
Fill in your own theory for how things got that way. Color it with partisan spin, but that wasn’t the point of Bo Bikes Bama or life immediately after the April 27 tornadoes.
Things suddenly changed when television viewers all over the state watched live footage of nature’s most fear-evoking and violent force juxtaposed with Bryant-Denny.
Thoughts of poisoned trees gave way to statewide visions of snapped-off, bark-stripped trees as far as the eye could see, with broken homes and lives strewn about the land scars.
Suddenly, fans of all stripe were Alabamians first.
Perhaps no fan caught the spirit more than Holly Hart.
She doesn’t mind saying she pulls for Auburn and Alabama’s opponent each week, but she created Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa with an iPhone and Facebook page. Her page became communications central, matching need in the disaster zones to need fillers everywhere.
There ought to be a presidential medal of something for that, and the spirit moved more than Hart.
Former Tide running back Gene Jelks — the guy who ratted his former school out to the NCAA for money from “Auburn people” — was welcomed back in T-town as a storm-relief volunteer.
Alabama and Auburn players and coaches rolled up their sleeves.
And even Auburn fans who cheered every Alabama field-goal attempt that sailed wide in that November loss to LSU rooted, deep down, for the deep snapper.
A year after the tornadoes, one wonders how Carson Tinker must feel, amid a myriad of reminders of the storm that ripped his beautiful girlfriend, Ashley Harrison, from his arms and hurled her to her end.
Thanks to Twitter, there’s no need to wonder. Tinker is joining Bo over the top.
“Huge thanks to @bojackson & @joyneral and anyone else who’s wearing one of Ashley’s bracelets for @BoBikesBama,” he tweeted Wedneday.
Then on Friday, “Huge thank you to all the people that have prayed & volunteered to get Tuscaloosa and Alabama back on our feet. … We’re coming back.”
Suddenly, Bo has lots of company over the top, and he had lots of company as he pedaled his bike into Tuscaloosa on Saturday.
The sight of an Auburn icon riding into Tuscaloosa, leading a unity-minded event, snapped everyone back to those better angels.
It reminded of a tragedy that, on the positive side, snapped everyone back from swirling ugliness that had descended upon one of college sports’ most recognized rivalries.
Let’s do it again next year … and every year.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.